What does an x-ray of the spine show: preparation and harm of the procedure

Spine X-ray is the simplest examination method that can be performed in any medical institution. X-ray allows you to establish some pathologies, this method has its own certain advantages and a number of disadvantages, which affects the quality of the examination.

Spine X-ray – what is this method

X-rays are taken using a special apparatus that emits radiation rays. These rays penetrate into the human body and, depending on the type of tissues and their density, which are on the path of radiation, they make it possible to obtain a black-and-white picture depicting the examined area.

The bony structures of the spine are quite dense and therefore the rays are retained in them, in the images the bones look white. Lighter fabrics are gray.

Based on this, the doctor, examining the images, makes certain conclusions about the pathological changes in the examined area of ​​the patient’s body.

The advantages and disadvantages of this technique

X-ray examination of the bone structures of the spine has its advantages and certain disadvantages.

The advantages of this technique include:

  • The ability to conduct a study immediately when the patient contacts a doctor. X-ray equipment is available in almost every medical institution and therefore, in emergency cases, pictures are taken almost immediately, and their assessment is carried out by a radiologist in a few minutes.
  • Low cost. Regular examination according to indications and according to the policy is done free of charge.
  • Currently, it is possible to record a survey on a digital file, which allows data to be transferred to another city for description to qualified specialists.
  • No preliminary preparation is required before most types of X-ray examination. Only with an X-ray of the spine and coccyx area, in some cases, a cleansing enema is required, this is necessary so that gases accumulating in the intestines do not affect the quality of the examination.

The disadvantages of radiography also include several parameters, these are:

  • The least information content compared to more modern survey methods. A snapshot of the spinal column will allow you to determine whether there are fractures of the bone structures of the vertebrae, whether there are deformities or proliferation of osteophytes in osteochondrosis. But at the same time, radiation rays easily penetrate through soft tissues and the intervertebral disc, and therefore it is not possible to find out their full state and certain changes by radiography.
  • Radiation effects on the body. Modern X-ray equipment has a higher safety class, but still, a small percentage of radiation affects the human body during such an examination. Therefore, it is not recommended to take pictures frequently, and in some cases X-rays are completely contraindicated.

Is it harmful

Some are afraid of X-rays, as they believe that the dose of radiation received can negatively affect the body. And this will be manifested by the mutation of cells and their transformation into cancerous ones.

To understand that this fear has practically no scientific justification, it is necessary to know the level of radiation hazardous to humans. This level is about 150 roentgens, obtained in total for the year.

The dose of radiation received by the patient with images of the spine in two projections is 1.5 m3v.

This figure can be compared with what we get with constant natural irradiation in about six months. That is, the risk of an overdose of radiation during a conventional X-ray examination using old-style equipment is minimal.

And the use of computer technology allows to reduce the examination time, which means that the dose of radiation affecting a person is reduced several times.

However, for some patients, radiography is not a completely safe diagnostic procedure.

They try to do without this examination in such situations:

  • If a woman is in the first months of pregnancy. The background radiation is especially dangerous if the picture is taken in the lower abdomen. The developing fetus is especially sensitive to radiation and this may be reflected in certain defects during its development.
  • If it is necessary to examine a small patient. The X-ray must be done correctly, taking precautions, and then the radiation on the child’s body will not have negative consequences.

In cases where there is a certain danger of the negative influence of the X-ray, the doctor can replace this examination with more gentle methods.

What the X-ray shows

X-rays of the spine are usually performed in two projections, that is, the patient lies on his side or the spinal column is photographed straight. The image obtained by all standards allows you to detect:

  • All acquired or congenital curvatures of the spinal column.
  • Pathological changes in the structure of the bone tissue of all vertebrae of the desired research area.
  • Tumor neoplasms.
  • Certain changes in the articular surfaces of the vertebral bodies.
  • Violations of physiological integrity.
  • Bone formations.

The X-ray image is assessed by a specially trained specialist and, based on a comparative analysis, issues a conclusion on the identified deviations from the norm. Then the doctor, on the basis of this result, makes a conclusion about the possible development of a number of diseases in his patient.

When conducting diagnostic radiography, it is possible to assume with a high percentage of probability the following diseases:

  • Injury to the spine – fractures of the vertebral bodies, cracks, subluxations.
  • Compression, that is, compression of the vertebrae.
  • Curvatures in different parts of the spine.
  • Osteochondrosis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis.
  • Spinal tuberculosis.
  • Neoplasms.
  • Congenital and acquired developmental anomalies.

Radiography is usually prescribed to exclude or confirm the above diseases. Also, indications for the appointment of images may be:

  • Frequent headaches and dizziness. With such violations, first of all, an X-ray of the cervical spine is prescribed.
  • For chest pains, an x-ray of this area and neck is required.
  • Numbness and weakness in the limbs.

If the obtained result does not fully confirm the alleged diagnosis, then the patient is sent for additional diagnostic procedures.

How to prepare

No special preparation is required for most types of X-ray examinations.

If images of the spine in the lumbar region and tailbone are prescribed, then in emergency cases the patient’s intestines are cleaned with an enema from feces and gases. This is necessary, since the gases do not transmit X-rays well and without an enema there is a high probability of obtaining a poor-quality picture.

During a routine examination, the patient is warned that a few days before the diagnosis, it is necessary to exclude from the diet products, the processing of which in the body causes the accumulation of gases.

Immediately before the procedure, you must:

  • Remove clothing from the area of ​​the body to be examined.
  • Remove all metal objects from the body.
  • The examination is done from a lying position or on its side, sometimes it is necessary to create a certain inclination of the body.
  • During the X-ray, the patient should lie as the laboratory assistant showed him, not moving or moving. In time, such an examination takes only a few minutes, depending on the number of required images.

The doctor may prescribe an x-ray with certain functional tests. The essence of this type of examination technique is that the picture is taken from the position of the possible maximum flexion or extension of the spinal column. In this case, the pose for each patient is selected individually based on which part of the spine needs additional research.

Where can you do the examination

Spine X-ray is a standard, classic examination and therefore can be performed in any city. X-ray equipment is available in every district polyclinic, in hospitals, specialized medical centers. In emergencies, X-rays can be taken at 24-hour hospitals and emergency rooms.

How much is

Scheduled X-ray, which a doctor prescribes for his patient, is carried out free of charge in Russian hospitals, that is, on the basis of a policy.

If a person goes to a paid clinic or wants to take an X-ray without a doctor’s prescription, then he will have to pay a certain amount for examinations.

A spine x-ray costs differently in different clinics, and its price depends on the area of ​​examination, the number of images and projections. The cost of an ordinary photo is within one thousand rubles, together with a description.

Spine x-ray at home – is it accurate

Currently, there is an opportunity in large cities to conduct an X-ray examination of a person at home.

For these purposes, a special mobile unit is used, which the doctor can move independently. The data obtained is no different from the pictures that are taken in inpatient medical institutions, and the decoding of the results is carried out within one hour.

Home X-rays have several advantages This procedure can be used if there is an elderly, non-walking relative in the house, if there is no desire to visit the clinic.

The examination will allow you to immediately understand whether a person needs hospitalization or whether it is better to carry out all the treatment at home.


The first months of pregnancy are considered an unconditional contraindication to x-ray. In the last months of bearing a baby, X-rays are prescribed only for strict indications.

The doctor can refuse the patient to be examined on the X-ray unit if the bowel cleansing is insufficient. Also, the images will give little information if a person is inadequate and cannot lie still or if he has significant obesity in that particular area of ​​the spine that needs examination.

X-ray is the very first examination method, according to the results of which the doctor can choose an emergency treatment and a further examination scheme. When prescribing images, an experienced specialist takes into account all indications and contraindications, and therefore it makes no sense for the patient to refuse radiography.

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